Feature Stories

  • Machine Evolution
    Many scientists believe that life started out as nothing more than strands of proto-genetic material known as RNA. A new device automates studies of RNA evolution and could lend insights into the origin of life on Earth.
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  • Signals from an Infant Earth
    Precise dating of zircon crystals suggests that Earth may have been conducive to life even before an epic influx of asteroids pummeled our planet 4 billion years ago.
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  • Unlocking Martian Rocks
    A new study offers a simplified technique for detecting biological molecules in martian rock. The equipment is too large to be put on a rover, but it could be used to analyze samples brought back from Mars.
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  • Cosmic Collisions
    Researchers have been using a vast database to show that asteroids are shaped by small impacts over time.
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  • Ocean on Enceladus May Be Short-Lived
    Three years ago, surprising evidence came out for an ocean underneath the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. But a new report indicates just how hard it may be to keep water from freezing on this tiny moon.
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  • Deep Hydrogen
    Molecular hydrogen provides energy for many bacteria, in hot springs at Yellowstone and in rocks several kilometers beneath the surface. How did molecular hydrogen get inside these deep rocks, and what does this tell us about the origin of life on Earth?
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  • Testing for Life on Mars
    Controversy still surrounds the life-detection results from NASA's Viking mission of 30 years ago. The Phoenix mission now on Mars may help answer questions raised by Viking, but researchers will need to be able to spot the difference between chemical and biological signatures.
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  • Making Sense of Mars Methane
    Research on methane at a Mexican salt flat could help reveal the source of methane that has been detected in the atmosphere of Mars. But first scientists have to decipher the unique – and seemingly contradictory - isotopic signature of the Mexican methane.
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  • Biological Stowaways on Mars
    Astrobiologists hope to find evidence for life on Mars. Sending spacecraft from Earth to study the planet could introduce biological contamination, however, and lead to a false detection of alien life. New research adds to these concerns with evidence that ATP -- an energy-storage
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  • Amino Acids: In Hot Water
    Meteorites shower the Earth with amino acids. A new project is exploring how long amino acids could survive on asteroids, meteorites, and the early Earth. The results could help scientists pinpoint how and where life on our planet began.
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